Drop in Inventory Fuels Sales Slowdown [INFOGRAPHIC]

Some Highlights:

  • Existing Home Sales are now at an annual pace of 5.46 million.
  • Inventory of existing homes for sale dropped to a 4-month supply, marking the 35th month in a row of declines.
  • The median price of homes sold in April was $257,900. This is the 74th consecutive month of year-over-year price gains.

 

Posted by The KCM Crew

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Are You Ready to Graduate From Renting to Owning a Home?

With graduation season in full swing, many may be pondering a change in their living quarters. Some may be moving out of Mom and Dad’s house into dorms, or maybe out of dorms into their own apartments.

But what if you’re ready to take an even bigger step—moving out of a rental into a home you can call your own?

Buying a house, after all, is a great way to put down roots and build wealth (since homes tend to appreciate so you can sell later for a profit). But purchasing property isn’t a simple process, so you should make sure you’re prepared.

So, how do you know if you’re ready to move from an apartment to a house? Ask yourself these questions below to get a sense of where you’re at—or what you have to do to transition easily into home-buying mode once the time is right.

jacoblund/iStock

Can you afford to buy a home?

For starters, let’s talk money. Buying a home is a hefty purchase, probably the largest you’ll ever make. So, you’ll need a down payment (typically recommended to be 20% of the home’s purchase price) and steady income (i.e., a job) to pay your mortgage.

There are other costs also associated with homeownership:

  • Closing costs (typically 2% to 5% of the home’s purchase price)
  • Home insurance (cost varies by state)
  • Maintenance
  • Utilities
  • Budget for unseen repairs and emergencies

While renting might seem more economical than owning at first glance, that’s not always the case; our rent vs. buy calculator can help you compare the costs. You might be surprised by the results!

Another good first step to figuring out whether you can afford a house is to enter your salary and town of residence into a home affordability calculator, which will show you how much you’d pay for a mortgage on a typical house in that area. Or talk with a loan officer about whether you would qualify for a mortgage, and how much you can spend comfortably. Such consultations are free, and will give you a concrete dollars-and-cents sense of where you stand.

Are you settled in your job?

Your job situation is not only important in terms of income to buy a home, but also whether you’re happy where you work and plan to stay put. Because once you own a home, your career prospects do narrow somewhat, purely because a home anchors you to one area.

“Homeowners tend to have fewer job opportunities compared to renters, since renters can easily accept a job in another city or state,” says Reid Breitman, managing partner at Kuzyk Law, in Los Angeles. “A homeowner may decline such an opportunity because they don’t want to go through the cost, time, and expense of selling their home. So, it may be better to wait to purchase a house until after you’re firmly established in your employment situation.”

Do you know where you want to live?

Since moving once you own a home is not as easy as just packing your bags (which, let’s face it, is a hassle in itself), you really need to make sure you’re picking a home in an area where you’ll be happy.

“It’s not easy to just sell a house and move to a new one if intolerable neighborhood issues come up, since the transaction cost to sell—up to 8% to 10% of the sale price for brokerage feesescrowtitle, and other costs of sale—would be relatively very expensive,” Breitman says. “So you need to really scope out the neighborhood.”

When in doubt, try renting for a few months to make sure you like the area before you start shopping for a home to own for good.

How much home maintenance are you willing to tackle?

If you love the challenge of fixing a leaky faucet and figuring out which shrubs will flourish in your yard, homeownership may be right up your alley. But if the idea of mowing a lawn or messing with the HVAC makes you depressed, then you may want to stick with renting, which gives you a roof over your head without the work.

“Apartment renters don’t have many home-related responsibilities,” explains Brian Davis, director of SparkRental, in Baltimore. “If something breaks, they call the landlord. Often, they don’t even need to worry about setting up utilities; they either come with the building, or the process is merely changing the name on an existing utility account.”

Living in a house you own is a different story. There’s no landlord to call if anything goes wrong; it’s all up to you. So you have to be either adept as a handyman, or willing to find and pay someone else to do such tasks. Or else consider buying a condo or co-op, where the lawns and public areas around your home are maintained by hired help.

Bottom line: Owning a home is a big commitment. So before you jump into it, you should have confidence that it works for your circumstances.

“No one should feel like they have to follow a template, that by reaching a certain age or having a certain number of children they need a house in the suburbs,” Davis says. “So forget the clichés and movies, and decide based on you.”

 

Posted by Julie Ryan Evans on realtor.com

Ready to buy? Visit our website to get started with one of our agents!

House Hunting in One Day: 6 Tips for Maximizing Your Time

asiseeit/iStock

In the ideal home-buying scenario, attending open houses and pinpointing the perfect place is a breeze. But in a seller’s market, finding a home is no small feat, which is why it’s important to make the most of the time you spend touring houses. Since most open houses happen on the weekend, you’ll need to do some prep work to manage your time wisely, so you don’t waste the better parts of your Saturdays and Sundays. We’ve got you covered with these tips to help you make your home search as productive as it can be.

1. Get pre-approved for a mortgage

Do not start touring houses before you are pre-approved for a mortgage. Not only will this crystallize exactly the price range you should be considering, but it will solidify your status as a serious buyer when the time eventually comes to make an offer, says Spencer Chambers, real estate expert and owner of the Chambers Organization in Newport Beach, CA.

2. Clarify which amenities matter most

You won’t be able to zero in on the right property if your wish list is a mile long or too vague. “Make a list of your absolute necessities and another of your wants; together, these will become your guide on which houses you’ll look at, based on the boxes they check,” Chambers says.

Beyond the physical house, brainstorm other variables that will help you narrow down the neighborhood: school district, walkability, proximity to downtown, etc. “Think about what you like to do on the weekend and what you need access to,” says Wendy Hooper with Coast Realty Services in Newport Beach, CA. Do you love dining out? Is a thriving music scene important? Do you need to live in a top-notch school district? “All of these factors help narrow communities quickly,” Hooper says.

Finally, if you’ll be commuting, check out typical drive times during the hours you’ll be on the road, using Google Maps or Waze. “Just because a property is near a highway doesn’t mean you’ll have smooth sailing if the highway is clogged with daily bumper-to-bumper traffic,” Taylor notes.

3. Find a savvy real estate agent

Once you are clear on your parameters, it’s time to start touring these homes. You’ll really want a real estate agent who knows the area. One way to find one is to start perusing listings in your preferred location and see what names keep popping up; they are likely to be the local experts. In many instances, they will be familiar with the homes for sale, and they may even catch wind of homes that are about to hit the market, so you can have a first look.

The goal is for your real estate agent to help you whittle down the list of homes you like online to a handful you’ll tour in person during the weekend.

4. Plan your route wisely

Once you’ve settled on the houses you’ll tour that day, have your agent create an itinerary of the most efficient route to see them. Grouping properties by neighborhood helps clients get their bearings on relative distances and a feel for what each neighborhood offers, says real estate agent Jake Tasharski with Center Coast Realty in Chicago.

However, if you’re short on time, Taylor recommends prioritizing by preference to make sure you’re able to see your top prospects. Or front-load your schedule with the newest listings, since those are the hottest homes that other buyers are eager to tour.

5. Take notes (and photos) as you go

When you are touring many houses in one day, they are naturally going to blend together. To keep them all straight, take plenty of photos—at least one of each room—and take notes of anything you notice, both positive and negative. Spencer also recommends giving each house a nickname, something that stands out to you, so that you can easily remember it.

Remember, this is the time to be judgy. Tasharski encourages clients to eliminate homes as they go by comparing each current home to the previous showing, and to their favorite home so far. “Seeing so many properties in a short amount of time can get overwhelming, so if my client knows a home they just saw isn’t ‘the one,’ we throw that listing sheet away, so it’s out of sight and out of mind.”

6. Block out the last half of the afternoon to revisit your top choices

If at all possible, leave the final hour to revisit your favorite properties. Still have extra time? Get to know the neighborhood. enjoy a snack or cocktail in a local bistro, and soak up your new neighborhood vibe, Taylor suggests. You’ve earned it.

 

Posted by Cathie Ericson on realtor.com

Ready to buy? Visit our website today to start searching for your next home!

Fact or Fiction? 6 Down Payment Myths You Should Stop Believing Immediately

WHYFRAME/Shutterstock

If you’re thinking about buying your first home, that pesky down payment has probably kept you awake more than a few nights. We get it—while a pre-approval is crucial for determining your buying power, it’s the down payment that shows you mean business.

But saving up is hard. In a study conducted by NerdWallet, 44% of respondents said a lack of a down payment was the roadblock keeping them from buying a home.

Making things even worse? Your well-meaning friends and family have probably given you at least one piece of well-meaning, but ill-informed advice, leaving you in more of a blind panic than you need to be.

We’re not saying that saving for a down payment will be a cake walk, but separating fact from fiction can go a long way. Here’s the truth you need to know.

Myth No. 1: You need 20% down

In the NerdWallet study, 44% of respondents also believed you need 20% (or more) down to buy a home. For decades, this was standard, but it isn’t always the case anymore.

“It really depends on the type of buyer you are,” says Robert Garay, a broker associate and team leader of the Garay Groupat Lifestyle International Realty in Miami.

For instance, a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan only requires 3.5% down. If either you or your spouse served in the military, you’re likely to be eligible for a Veterans Affairs (VA) loan, which can be approved for 0% down. The same goes for United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) loans.

And if you’re a qualified buyer, you can get approved for a conventional loan with less than 20% down, but there’s a catch: You’ll be on the hook for private mortgage insurance, or PMI. PMI is paid directly to your lender, not toward your principal. Think of it essentially as insurance you pay to prove to the lender you won’t default on your loan.

Myth No. 2: Paying mortgage insurance is smarter than paying a bigger down payment

Perhaps that mortgage insurance seems like a small price to pay in order not to deplete your bank account and win the house. So what if you make some additional payments for a while?

It might not be a big deal, but you’ll want to calculate what you’ll pay in the long run. Take, for example, conventional loans. If you put less than 20% down, you’ll get stuck with PMI, but only until the principal balance reaches 78% or less of the original purchase price.

FHA loans, on the other hand, require mortgage insurance for the life of the loan. That means you’ll be paying an extra monthly fee for as long as you live in the home (or until you pay off the mortgage).

Before you brush off mortgage insurance, compare your options—and know that paying less upfront could mean paying much more over the life of your loan.

Myth No. 3: Cash is king

If you’re shopping in a competitive market, you’ve likely heard horror stories about first-time buyers getting snubbed over investors or all-cash buyers. If you’re working with a loan and a small amount down, it might seem like your chances of getting picked over the other guys are slim to none.

There is some truth to this belief. Cash offers offer one big benefit to a seller: They’re guaranteed to close on time with no loan approval hiccups.

But on the flip side,“That myth assumes that sellers care most about a fast and certain close, and that’s not always true,” says Casey Fleming, mortgage adviser and author of “The Loan Guide: How to Get the Best Possible Mortgage.”

Often, if you make the bigger offer, or you write a killer personal letter that resonates with the seller, you stand a better chance of getting approved over an all-cash offer.

Fleming’s seen it happen: “I’ve actually beat out all cash offers with 10% down because our offer price was a little higher,” he says. “I’ve also had deals where we were competing against a higher cash offer and the seller took ours because the buyers were a young family wanting to raise their kids in the home—and that meant something to the seller.”

Myth No. 4: Down payment assistance is easy!

We hate to burst your bubble—or discourage you from trying to get down payment assistance if you qualify—but finding, applying, and getting approved for help isn’t always easy.

First, there are no national, or even many state-run, assistance programs.

“Pretty much every program is locally run, sometimes by county or even by city,” Fleming says. You can check the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s website for a smattering of state-run “homeowner assistance” options, but you’ll have to do some digging.

And then there’s the other rub. “You have to be under a certain income to qualify, usually the median income in the county,” Fleming says.

Some programs may make special exceptions—say, for single parents—but in general, income is going to be a big factor.

For example, to be eligible for down payment assistance in Grand County, CO, applicants must work a minimum of 32 hours per week in the area and meet income limits. Nevada’s “Home Is Possible Down Payment Assistance Program” has a cap on income, credit score requirements, and the cost of the home bought. In Tamarac, FL, applicants must meet income requirements, wait until an open enrollment period and then get picked from a lottery system.

Still, if you think you might qualify, call your local housing authority office—it can usually point you in the right direction.

Myth No. 5: You shouldn’t put more than 20% down

Let’s say you’re lucky enough to have saved more than 20% down. Odds are good some well-meaning friend is going to tell you to put only 20% down—no more, no less. After all, now that you’ve successfully avoided PMI, why fork over more cash than you have to?

A couple of reasons, Fleming says: First, a higher down payment could signal to your lender that you’re a trustworthy borrower and get you a lower interest rate on your mortgage. Plus, the more you pay upfront, the less you’re borrowing—which means lower mortgage payments.

But you’ll have to put down at least 5% more to see that difference, according to Fleming.

“Your interest rate drops a little more with 25% down, and even more with 35% down,” he says.

Compare your options to see if it makes more sense to pay the extra down or to keep that money in investments that can work for you.

Myth No. 6: You can take out a loan for a down payment

Truth: There’s nothing wrong with getting help with your down payment, but it has to be a gift. If a lender suspects the money might be a loan, repaying said loan will be factored into your mortgage approval amount and you’ll qualify for less than you might have wanted.

In order to prove it’s a gift, you’ll have to get a letter from the gifters, swearing that they don’t plan on asking for the money back. And don’t try to game the system—lying on a mortgage application is a felony.

Dori Zinn contributed to this article.

 

Posted by Angela Colley on realtor.com

Getting Pre-Approved Should Always Be Your First Step

In many markets across the country, the number of buyers searching for their dream homes greatly outnumbers the number of homes for sale. This has led to a competitive marketplace where buyers often need to stand out. One way to show you are serious about buying your dream home is to get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage before starting your search.

Even if you are in a market that is not as competitive, understanding your budget will give you the confidence of knowing if your dream home is within your reach.

Freddie Mac lays out the advantages of pre-approval in the ‘My Home’ section of their website:

“It’s highly recommended that you work with your lender to get pre-approved before you begin house hunting. Pre-approval will tell you how much home you can afford and can help you move faster, and with greater confidence, in competitive markets.”

One of the many advantages of working with a local real estate professional is that many have relationships with lenders who will be able to help you with this process. Once you have selected a lender, you will need to fill out their loan application and provide them with important information regarding “your credit, debt, work history, down payment and residential history.”

Freddie Mac describes the ‘4 Cs’ that help determine the amount you will be qualified to borrow:

  1. Capacity: Your current and future ability to make your payments
  2. Capital or cash reserves: The money, savings, and investments you have that can be sold quickly for cash
  3. Collateral: The home, or type of home, that you would like to purchase
  4. Credit: Your history of paying bills and other debts on time

Getting pre-approved is one of many steps that will show home sellers that you are serious about buying, and it often helps speed up the process once your offer has been accepted.

Bottom Line

Many potential home buyers overestimate the down payment and credit scores needed to qualify for a mortgage today. If you are ready and willing to buy, you may be pleasantly surprised at your ability to do so.

 

Posted by The KCM Crew

Are you ready to get pre-approved? Visit our website to get started!

The Mortgage Process: What You Need to Know [INFOGRAPHIC]

Some Highlights:

  • Many buyers are purchasing a home with a down payment as little as 3%.
  • You may already qualify for a loan, even if you don’t have perfect credit.
  • Take advantage of the knowledge of your local professionals who are there to help you determine how much you can afford.

 

Posted by The KCM Crew

Visit our website to get started on finding your next home!

What is the Cost of Waiting Until Next Year to Buy?

We recently shared that over the course of the last 12 months, home prices have appreciated by 7.0%. Over the same amount of time, interest rates have remained historically low which has allowed many buyers to enter the market.

As a seller, you will likely be most concerned about ‘short-term price’ – where home values are headed over the next six months. As a buyer, however, you must not be concerned about price, but instead about the ‘long-term cost’ of the home.

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), Freddie Mac, and Fannie Mae all project that mortgage interest rates will increase by this time next year. According to CoreLogic’s most recent Home Price Index Report, home prices will appreciate by 4.7% over the next 12 months.

What Does This Mean as a Buyer?

If home prices appreciate by 4.7% over the next twelve months as predicted by CoreLogic, here is a simple demonstration of the impact that an increase in interest rate would have on the mortgage payment of a home selling for approximately $250,000 today:

Bottom Line

If buying a home is in your plan for 2018, doing it sooner rather than later could save you thousands of dollars over the terms of your loan.

 

Posted by The KCM Crew